Out With the Old, In With the Car of Tomorrow
Bill France Sr. founded NASCAR more than 50 years ago with the idea of having a racing series of stock cars -- cars you could actually go down to your local dealership and buy off the showroom floor. Over the years, technical improvements and years of research and development have changed the game, but the original philosophy remained the same. NASCAR rules required teams to field cars that at least resembled cars found in the manufacturer's product line.
With the inception of NASCAR's car of tomorrow (COT), Sprint Cup cars have taken on a whole new look and lost the fundamental individuality of cars seen in the past. As a result, the inspection process has evolved to accommodate the new cars. NASCAR still wants the cars to be as evenly matched as possible. In years past, competing manufacturers each gave their teams a different vehicle with different specifications for competition. As a result, NASCAR used several different sets of templates or measuring devices to check different areas of the car's body. But problems -- such as uniformity of aerodynamic characteristics -- often caused teams form one manufacturer or another to call for changes in order to level the perceived playing field. The car of tomorrow, in theory, is the same across the board for every competitor. The only difference in each body is the decals used to identify the manufacturer.
The inspection process really starts at the NASCAR Research and Development Center in Concord, N.C. Teams build chassis within the same set of specifications, regardless of manufacturer. Each chassis is measured using a high-tech computer and robotic measuring arm to verify the tolerances or measurements at specific areas. Once NASCAR is satisfied the chassis meets its specifications, tiny radio frequency identification (RFID) chips are placed in discrete locations and an approval sticker, similar to a vehicle identification number (VIN) sticker is placed on the chassis for future scanning.
As you will see in the next section, NASCAR has tightened its grip on the inspection process. Officials continue to crack down on teams that push the gray areas of the rules in an attempt to give every team an equal chance for success. Read the next page to learn how they check each car at the track before every race.